April 8th and 9th 2000 Shirley Visit
By Betty Shirley
When I heard that one of our Shirleys was having a 100th birthday celebration in Mississippi, I wanted to go in the worse way. However, being on a tight budget right now because of the upcoming England trip in July, I felt I couldn't afford it unless a terrific fare rate came through at the last minute. That was my only hope of attending.
On the evening of April 1st I received an email from a family member of Daisy Shirley Reddix, the one celebrating her 100th birthday. The email informed me that I was being provided with the funds to cover my costs to come to Jackson Mississippi. I just about fell off my chair. What a wonderful surprise! (As you can tell, things like that rarely happen to me). I was thrilled to have the opportunity to go meet Shirleys once again... My thanks to Rudy who made this possible!
I flew into Jackson on April 7th late at night. A special thanks to George Shirley for picking me up at the airport and dropping me off at the hotel. I unpacked and sat reading for awhile with a cup of hot tea. I guess it was about 1:30AM when I noticed a loud noise and then saw a light flash through the window. I got up to look outside, and it was pouring down rain, thundering and lightening! Well, chicken me decided it was time to get in bed and pull those covers over my head! I was out in no time. By 6AM I was up again, trying to figure out what to say to Daisy when I made a presentation to her that afternoon at Jackson State University. After breakfast, I was on the phone calling local Shirleys to see if anyone had some free time to come over and visit that morning. I only spoke with 2 people as they the others were not home.
George Shirley came over and we talked for a couple of hours about his ancestors, the Darlington Co. SC. Shirleys. Minutes after he left, the Shirleys of the Jamaican group arrived and before they left, Dr. Aaron Shirley of Jackson stopped into to say hello. We had a great time talking about their Shirleys and I will be checking on Dr. Aaron Shirley's group later this week.
The celebration started at 5PM and Ann Fo and her father (from Canada), picked me up at the hotel. We arrived at Jackson State University and was taken upstairs to a waiting room where we found many family members and special guests who were participating in the afternoon festivities. Soon, we were escorted to a large room on the main floor where everyone was waiting for our arrival. Then the Celebration began as Miss Daisy Shirley Reddix was brought into the room.
Dr. Julia Gaston Rhodes was Mistress of Ceremonies. The Invocation was given by Dr. Hickman Johnson, Pastor of the Farish Street Baptist Church. The music was provided by the Jackson State University Symphony Orchestra. Guest speakers were: Mr. Oswald Wynter of Kingston, Jamaica, Mrs. Lottie Thornton , retired Director of Early Childhood Center at Jackson State University, Mr. Raymond Winder of Nassau, Bahamas, Mr. Roger Whitfield of Tampa Florida, and Mrs. Shirley Vanderpool, daughter of Daisy.
Roger Whitfield introduced me and I went forward to make a presentation.... "It is my pleasure to be here to share this special day with you. I understand you were born Daisy Shirley April 10th, 1900. You may be the oldest living Shirley. On behalf of the Shirley Association and Shirleys everywhere, we congratulate you. I would like to present to you the Shirley Coat of Arms pin. Happy 100th Birthday Miss Daisy. (I walked over and pinned it on her blouse).
Guests and family came from: Canada, Cuba, Jamaica, Florida, California, Georgia, Ohio and Illinois.
Following the program a reception was held to honor Daisy.
My personal opinion of Daisy from what I heard was she is a very special Lady. She served for 27 years as the FIRST LADY OF JACKSON STATE. She sat in her wheel chair like a Queen as people came to her to wish her a Happy Birthday. Everyone spoke very highly of her. She is still active in her community and church. What an honor for me to be there and to meet her and her family and friends.
Sunday, the following day, another party was given for Daisy at The Fairview Inn in Jackson. What a beautiful place, full of antiques and it is listed on the National Historical Registry. Daisy had another day of Birthday celebration and more friends and family attended this occasion. Just as I was leaving, I was approached by a Senator who expressed his favorable opinion on my presentation the night before to Daisy.
It was a momentous celebration and reunion for their Shirley clan. It seems that many of those attending from other areas were brought together as a result of our Shirleys of Jamaica webpage. I opened that webpage about 5 months ago. The excitement can certainly be felt when you listen to them talk about the success they are having in contacting each other and sharing their Jamaican Shirley heritage. A professional researcher has been hired to research their roots and progress is being made with new info surfacing almost daily. A book will be written for the group and will be made available on our website.
When I get my film developed, I may add photos to this page. Also, I was assured of receiving photos taken at the Saturday event at Jackson State University.
I left the party early on Sunday as I made plans to go to Mobile AL to visit with friends who use to live near us in California. We have been friends for about 20 years. They are Clifton McNeil and his wife. Clifton use to play professional football for the Cleveland Browns, the 49ers, NY Giants and Houston Oilers. He is now retired. I stayed the night with Clifton, wife, Ruby, and their family. It took 3 1/2 hours to drive down and it was about 9:15 PM when I arrived. They invited their friends, Erick and Eleanor over and we sat up until 1AM talking. Erick and Eleanor use to be a newscaster team on a Mobile TV station. Erick asked if I brought any books about the Shirleys that I had written. I went upstairs and got them and he browsed through them commenting about various places and asking questions. He loves history. He shared some of his stories about his roots, etc. We all had a great time.
I was up by 7AM, we had breakfast, Eric and Eleanor came over again, and another gentleman who is the top coach in Alabama... just having received some special honors this month. I had to pull myself away to hit the road by 10:30AM heading for Jackson to catch my plane at 3:40PM. I made it to the check-in at 3PM. That was close! I arrived home at 11PM. Was at work by 7:30AM next morning. Worked 7 hours. I think I am getting old. I have been tired ever since... HAAA!
I think that gives you a fairly detailed report of my trip.
I had a GREAT time! "Thank you" to those who made it a memorable occasion!